30th January, 2014 by Lucy Shaw
South African Pinot Noir pioneer Peter Finlayson is the owner and chief winemaker at Bouchard Finalyson in the Hemel-en-Aarde valley in the Walker Bay. He was the first person to make Pinot in Hemel-en-Aarde and his wines serve as a benchmark of what South African Pinot Noir is capable of. His sons, Peter-Allan and Andrew Finlayson, have followed in his footsteps and make Pinot Noir at their own estate, Crystallum, in Hemel-en-Aarde.
What factors in your view make a Pinot Noir great?
Pinot Noir requires two primary factors to perform: a cool climate and heavy clay soils that limit vigour.
What regions of the world, other than your own, have the potential to produce high quality Pinot Noir?
Parts of New Zealand, such as Central Otago, and the Santa Rita Highlands in California.
How has your own approach to getting the best from Pinot Noir changed over the years?
I’ve perhaps adopted a softer approach at ferment and am also more careful with amount of press wine blended back at bottling.
What sort of evolution in the style and popularity of Pinot Noir are you currently seeing in the Walker Bay?
The market seeks instant gratification from the New World. Our Pinots are considered by many as atypical.
What is it about Pinot Noir that means it has such global appeal?
Alluring and capricious, Pinot Noir has bags of personality. It requires an appreciation and intellectual understanding to place it and fathom it out. Vintages and producers differ greatly.
Perhaps it is that eternal search for a Pinot which offers goose bumps when it finally works. After all, winemaking is a sport and Pinot plays to the competitive spirit, whereas a variety such a Syrah can be produced according to a formula. Essentially, there is a great deal of honesty in Pinot Noir.
Is there a winemaker or wine whose expression of Pinot Noir inspires you?
Burgundy grand cru wines – there’s a reason why these vineyards have proved themselves over hundreds of years.
the drinks business Global Pinot Noir Masters 2013 takes place in February. Presided over by a panel of Masters of Wine and Master Sommeliers, each Pinot Noir is assessed by style and price rather than being judged by country. For more information, click here.